BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR Woodpeckers are 7 to 15 inches long and have short legs, sharp clawed toes, and a stiff tail. Most woodpeckers feed on wood boring insects, vegetable matter, berries, or tree sap. The northern flicker, which is responsible for most woodpecker damage to Utah homes, can be identified in flight by a yellow or reddish tint under the wing and tail feathers. The hairy, downy, three-towed, and Lewis’s woodpecker and the red-naped and Williamson’s sapsucker occasionally cause problems in Utah. DAMAGE Woodpeckers can cause an annoyance by hammering or drumming on houses and can cause property damage by drilling holes in wood siding and eaves. Woodpeckers hammer to attract mates, establish and/or defend a territory, excavate nesting or roosting sites, and search for insects. Wooden shingles, cedar or redwood siding, metal or plastic guttering, television antennas, and light posts are selected as drumming sites because these materials produce loud sounds. The majority of damage occurs to cedar, rough pine, and redwood siding, although other siding materials are occasionally damaged. Drumming is most common in the spring during early morning and late afternoon. Drumming usually ends by early July.
CONTROL METHODS Woodpecker damage can be prevented or eliminated with several techniques, including loud noises, exclusion, alternative building materials, and repellents. Immediate action should be taken to reduce damage and because woodpeckers are not easily driven from their pecking sites once they become established.
Prompt repair of large holes may encourage the woodpecker to leave or discourage other woodpeckers because these holes may serve as visual attractants. The holes can be covered with aluminum flashing or metal sheathing and painted to match the siding. If damage is occurring near areas that provide perch sites elimination of such sites can solve the problem.
Loud Noises Some woodpeckers can be frightened away with persistent loud noises such as banging pots and pans together, firing toy cap guns, or yelling. Deadening the sound producing area by filling the hollow space behind the wood can discourage some woodpeckers.
Exclusion Woodpeckers can be excluded from damage sites under the eaves by attaching hardware cloth or plastic netting to the eaves to prevent access by birds.
Alternative Building Materials Woodpeckers occasionally damage houses to obtain insects in the wood. Woodpeckers hammer holes to obtain insects. Insecticides or wood preservatives can deter woodpeckers by reducing or eliminating the insects.
Repellents Sticky bird repellents such as Tanglefoot or Roost-No-More applied to siding and other areas may discourage woodpeckers because they create a tacky footing. In areas where woodpeckers are a persistent problem, future homeowners should consider building homes from materials that woodpeckers are not prone to damage such as brick, metal, and products other than wood. Preliminary research indicates that predator bird silhouette mobiles and 7.5 inch diameter shaving mirrors that enlarge the image are successful frightening devices. Black plastic cut from garbage bags, aluminum foil strips 2 to 3 feet long, pinwheels with reflective vanes, or aluminum pie tins blowing in the wind will frighten woodpeckers. LEGAL STATUS When nonlethal control methods fail to deter woodpeckers, lethal control may be required. Woodpeckers are classified as migratory nongame birds and are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A federal permit is required for any lethal control.